Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that your body doesn’t store it. You have to get what you need from food, including citrus fruits, broccoli, and tomatoes.
You need vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is needed for healing wounds, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth. It also helps the body absorb iron from non-heme sources.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, along with vitamin E, beta-carotene, and many other plant-based nutrients. Antioxidants block some of the damage caused by free radicals, substances that damage DNA. The build up of free radicals over time may contribute to the aging process and the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
Vitamin C plays a role in protecting against the following: Heart disease, high blood pressure, the common cold, cancer (skin, cervical, breast), osteoarthritis, macular degeneration, preeclampsia and asthma.
Although the information is limited, studies suggest that vitamin C may also be helpful for:
- Boosting immunity
- Maintaining healthy gums
- Improving vision for those with uveitis (an inflammation of the middle part of the eye)
- Treating allergy-related conditions, such as asthma, eczema, and hay fever (called allergic rhinitis)
- Reducing effects of sun exposure, such as sunburn or redness (called erythema)
- Alleviating dry mouth, particularly from antidepressant medications (a common side effect from these drugs)
- Healing burns and wounds
- Decreasing blood sugar in people with diabetes
- Some viral conditions, including mononucleosis — Although scientific evidence is lacking, some doctors may suggest high-dose vitamin C to treat some viruses
Excellent sources of vitamin C include oranges, green peppers, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, mango, broccoli, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and citrus juices or juices fortified with vitamin C. Raw and cooked leafy greens (turnip greens, spinach), red and green peppers, canned and fresh tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapple are also rich sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is sensitive to light, air, and heat, so you’ll get the most vitamin C if you eat fruits and vegetables raw or lightly cooked.